BURIED is a film I revisit time after time due to how well made it is considering the entire film takes place in nothing more than a box big enough to fit Ryan Reynolds. The single location film is acted superbly by Reynolds, it’s often surprisingly thrilling and in the end it struck an intense emotional chord with me along with just being plain intense. So going into RED LIGHTS I had pretty lofty expectations for Rodrigo Cortes’ film that comes out of the box and into the rest of the world. Even without heightened expectations it would be foolish to rain praise on this film the same way I did and am currently doing for BURIED. RED LIGHTS for all its really great elements still manages to be a mostly disappointing follow up that had the potential around every corner to transition into something great.
Cortes’ film follows two paranormal investigators Margaret (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom (Cillian Murphy) as they look into and debunk claims of people having extraordinary abilities or are suffering from supernatural happenings. When a famed psychic, Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro), comes out of retirement spawned from the mysterious death of his toughest critic, Tom cannot shake his obsession to investigate him which makes his life spiral out of control.
There are so many promising things about this film that it really is hard to say I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to many people. BURIED made great use of its limitations in a way that RED LIGHTS also at times manages to do, but with a script and a last act reveal that severely damages any of the good will I had for the performances and beautiful cinematography. The dark tone lends to some moments towards the end that are painfully awkward and unintentionally funny- also moments that dampen the presence of so many great performers giving the material all they’ve got.
The premise itself is very interesting and also lays out the immense potential very well. The undertones of the characters involvement with each other and the threat that Silver poses to Tom and Margaret create greats amount of tension. The first two acts of the film as slow as they are feel like something truly extraordinary could be lurking in the last act so the slow and brooding nature of the film was excised by me for most of the runtime. Then in the last act it felt like more of the same and the final twist is so hackneyed and poorly conceived that it only makes me question how good if at all everything leading up to it was. That in and of itself is frustrating enough, but even the finale has moments I really enjoyed outside of the implications the twist presented.
Robert DeNiro is actually pretty great here- surprising given how much I have disliked him in the Focker sequels and his other recent works. Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver are great together even if both of them adhere a little too faithfully to a script that requires them at times to deliver very mediocre and silly dialogue. Elizabeth Olsen also has a presence here to be nothing other than a generic love interest and given nothing interesting to do except be present for one of the most embarrassing scenes in the film. The finale act of the film is where the scene in question lurks involving Olsen and a psychology student analyzing footage from a study of Silver done by the school Tom and Margaret work for. The dialogue given to the two of them is terrible, but where Olsen at least is convincing, the student in the scene is absolutely horrible, making me wish I had shut the film off before that point.
As hateful as I’m sure I sound toward the aspects of the film I didn’t like I don’t want to sound too misleading as I did enjoy the film to a certain extent. I’m not opposed to slow burn films, which this is for the most part; it’s just that the angering element to RED LIGHTS is the twist that makes almost everything else in the film makes no sense no matter how much Cortes tries to frame the reveal. My instincts say to not bother with the film as most probably won’t be able to get the same amount of enjoyment I did considering the amount of vile I have for the really terrible elements. However, from an opinion fit solely to my own likings I found RED LIGHTS to be a well performed and beautiful looking disappointment. The depths of my disappointment are not at disastrous levels to the point that this is a film I would watch again if only to enjoy the performances and the imagery and hold a middle finger to the screen for the majority of the last act. RED LIGHTS is imperfect and ridiculous but I’ll be damned if I still don’t feel the need to defend it.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)